tv PBS News Hour PBS December 19, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: ipresident obama said today gun control would be a central issue of his second term. he tapped vice president biden to spear head the administration's effort. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight: we look at the white house's stepped up response to the newtown elementary school shootings with illinois governor pat quinn among others. >> ifill: then, jeffrey brown examines a new report blaming the state department for systemic failures in security at the diplomatic mission in benghazi, libya, where four americans died. >> woodruff: from damascus, i.t.n.'s alex thomson reports on the impact the rebel siege of the syrian capital is having on supporters of the assad regime. >> in this educational district and the one next door alone, in the past two weeks 35 small
children and two teachers have been killed. >> ifill: we sit down with retiring connecticut senator joe lieberman, the democrat turned independent reflects on the tragedy in his home state and his 24 years in u.s. senate. >> there is reason for people to be angry skeptical and cynical abo theillingness or capacity of congress to act or stop mass violence in our country. >> woodruff: and kwame holman remembers conservative jurist former solicitor general and failed supreme court nominee robert h. bork. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> support also comes from
>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: the school shootings that shook the nation sparked a new call to action at the white house today. the president vowed to have proposals ready for the new congress that convenes next month. somber scenes of mourning played out once again today in newtown, connecticut. while in washington, president obama walked into the white house briefing room named for james brady-- the press secretary critically wounded in the shooting of president reagan
in 1981-- toalk about gun violence. >> the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. >> ifill: instead, in the wake of the massacre at sandy hook elementary school, mr. obama said, "this time, the words need to lead to action" on gun violence. >> the vast majority of responsible law abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible law breaking few from buying a weapon of war. i'm willing to bet that they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas. there is a big chunk of space between what the 2nd amendment means and having no rules at all. >> reporter: to that end, the president announced vice president biden and an administration team will craft recommendations on everything from gun laws to mental health,
to be sent to congress by january. >> this is not some washington commission. this is not something where folks will be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. this is a team that has a very specific task-- the pull together real reforms right now. >> ifill: the president bristled at a suggestion that he took little action on gun control during his first term. but he acknowledged the sandy hook massacre has been a wake up call for all americans. he said the public could agree to re-instate a ban on assault- style weapons and close a loophole that allows private sales at gun shows without a background check. house democrats gathered on capitol hill also urged a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. california congressman mike thompson: >> i've been a hunter all my life and there's no reason to have a magazine that holds 30
shells. we're already restricted by law why do you need 30 shells in a magazine? it's an assault magazine. that's all it can be. call it what it is-- an assault magazine and we don't and we don't have any reason to assault anyone in our communies, in our neighborhoods. >> ifill: far from the political debate, in newtown, the day's six funerals included a service for 27-year-old teacher victoria soto who died trying to shield students from gunfire. and principle dawn hochsprung was laid to rest this afternoon. services were also held for two seven-year-olds-- daniel barden and chase kowalski-- and two six-year-olds, charlotte bacon and caroline previdi. but there re signs that the weight of crushing media coverage is wearing on the small town, even as revulsion over the killings reverberated through the business world. this week, a private equity firm
said it would sell its stake in the company that makes the semi- automatic rifle used in the shooting. wal-mart also removed a website listing for a similar model and dick's sporting goods suspended sales of all modern sporting rifles, indefinitely. >> ifill: some reaction now to the president's remarks at a moment when governors and lawmakers are considering whher to ps new ws on eir own. pat quinn is the governor of illinois and a democrat. he's pushing for a statewide ban on assault weapons and high- capacity magazines. the state senate recently rejected his bill. we invited several republican governors as well, but they declined our offer for tonight. governor quinn, two days before the connecticut shootings, the court of appeals in chicago knocked down your effort to make illinois the one state which doesn't allow concealed carry, people with friechtly conaled guns and firearms they carry. that was a setback for you. does this change anything?
>> number one, what the federal government said, is illinois' law, which today does not allow for concealed carry-- that means a loaded weapon concealed on a person and allowed to be taken to a public place-- we have a law against that now, and the federal appellate court said we have to change our law. the court did say we could have reasonable limitations on what are called conceal carry, and we'll be debating that over the next six months. that's time limit we have it's ionichat decision came only a couple of days before the events in connecticut, where we saw high-capacity ammunition magazines connected to an assault weapon killing innocent children and their heroic teachers trying to save their lives. so that's something that in illinois we need to abandon any ability of ordinary people to have assault weapons. those are military weapons, and we want to ban them and ban these high-capacity ammunition magazines, and i see the president's call for to work
on thi isue as somethie in illinois, his home state, we want to take to heart and show the whole nation that that we can do this. so we're planning to work on this pronto and hopefully get action on it as quickly as possible. >> ifill: the president specifically made point about both of those,not only assault weapons but high-capacity ammunition clip. is this something that should be a federal role or state role? >> ideally we should have a federal law, simil to what was pased in 1994 by senator dianne feinstein and other members of congress. that was a federal ban on assault weapons. it expired in 2004. i think that was regrettable. we need to extend it nationwide. but i think in order to build the momentum-- and i can really feel the momentum of everyday people banding together in the best traditions of democracy to have the the voice of the people heard. and i think the people of our country, and definitely of our
state, want these assault weapons, these deadly assault weapons, military weapons, bapped from any kind of civili se, andlso, tese high-capacity ammunition magazines are that go with those weapons that were used in places like aurora, colorado, and in connecticut. we need to ban those as well. and they aren't for hunting or anything like that or sport shooting. they're really designed to kill people. we have to protect the public safety. >> ifill: you're governor of a state that has urban areas, that has rural areas. the president today mentioned since lasted from there have been gun incidents i incidents , to beaka, las vegas, alabama, other places, wi widely different anthe's ben an outbreak of what happened in newtowrntion a small ex-urban area. do you think the argument is different in an urban area? >> when it comes to protecting children we're all in this together, gwen. our state is the most diverse
state in the union. we best represent the upon population of the united states of america. we're very dwirs, but i think we need to show the nation that a group of people committed to the common good can come together and pass a law that's necessary for the public safety, whether you're in rural aea, a surban orrban area, we all have children. those of white house are parents understand how precious life is. we have a great poeet from illinois, carl sandberg who said, "the birth of a baby is god's opinion the world should go on." it's high time we protect our children, protect our babies from the harm of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. >> ifill: do you have any sense that public opinion is shifting in your state? >> oh, i believe so. i don't think there's any question. anecdotally,ust siti with he opleon t street-- i was at a daycare center today, an early-childhood center, and you can tell how committed moms and dads are to getting a law pads
to protect their children. no matter where you live in america, children come first. the great thing about our country is parents sacrifice some of their present in order to help their kid's future. the number one public safety measure for children in america today is to ban assault weapons. they have been used to cause great harm. never again. welso he to deal with these high-capacity ammunition magazines that go with them. we can do this. we're americans and it's high time the people be heard. >> ifill: but if the public opinion is change anecdote frael what you observed, why is it gun sales have gone up so markedly in the days since this last shooting? >> well, i think it's, obviously, an issue where some people who want to have these particular weapons have run out to buy them. i think that just should be an alarm bell to all of us thate must prohiittheale and possession in the futureuf assault weapons, as well as
high-capacity ammunition magazines. this law that was passed in 1994, that, unfortunately, expired in 2004, here we are in the 21st century, let's get it done in the best traditions of abraham lincoln's democracy. abraham lincoln believed in government of the people. i think a strong majority of people in our country-- definitely our state-- favor this reform law, and it's time we get that done for the people. >> ifill: guess what i'm asking finally is why-- h do yo know thre won't be backlash to this sort of new control? >> there is also alzheimer's going to be some that don't favor a reform, don't favor any kind of step forward in public safety, and they maybe make, in my opinion, specious arguments against that. i think the overwhelming majority of american citizen, after what we saw last friday, and i think all of us saw in america the good people coming together to say, "enough is enough. it's time that we take action, that we be heard, not just an interest group, but ratherthe
common good represented by the greatajory ofamericans. we've done this before in our country's history. we've changed laws that were needed to be changed, and it's high time to do it now. >> ifill: governor pat quinn of illinois, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: now, ray suarez takes a closer look at the potential powers and limitations on what the president and individual states can do. >> suarez: and for that, we get two views from people who have written extensively on gun-related issues. adam winkler is a professor of constitutional law at ucla school of law and author of "guight: the battle over e righto br arms in america." and john lott has been a prominent voice in the gun rights debate, arguing against further restrictions. he's an economist and the author of "more guns, less crime." john lott, just heard the president and pat quinn, the governor of a very large state, talking about using state and federal power to work against
gun violence. is there any track record? have there been laws passed that either at the state or federal level that showed any track record in pushing down the aunof violen, the numer of incidents, restriction on size, type, availability of weapons gwe can point to in the past? >> right, well, obviously, i understand the reaction. i mean we've all been torn aboard by this. i wish the problems were quite as simple as the president and the governor seem to indicate. we've tried a lot of the laws. the governor himself was saying he'd like to see something similar to the assault weapons ban that we had before. if guback when the assault weapons ban sunset 2004, many oftheame people pubbing it now-- senator dianne feinstein, senator chuck schumer-- were inpredicting large increases in violent crimes. murder rates and violent crimes have fallen by 20%.
somebody should ask them why they were so far off in terms of their prediction. and, you know, the-- and that covered many of the things being talked about now, from limiting the size of ammunition clips to ban on scalled asslt weapons. i think a lot of the problem is with all due respect to the governor, i'm not sure he really understands what the different types of guns are. there's something that's put out there that's mythical assault weapon. it's really trying to ban guns on the way they look on the outside, rather than how they actually function. >> suarez: let me turn to professor winkler, at this point, is there any track record, sir, for using state or federal regulation to turn back the rate, the frequency of gun violence? and respo to jn lott's point about previous legislation not having done much. >> well, it's true that a restriction on assault weapons is not likely to have a huge
impact on ordinary crime rates, in part because assault weapons are generally not the preferred firearm of the criminal, who generally prefers to have handguns at their disposal. since 2004 and the sunset of the assault weapons ban, we've really seen a spike in the number of incidents of mass shootings, so maybe these ooir armms are attractive to them. we ha alsoeen with the brady background check bill, adopted in 1993, about 60% of gun purchases, well over 1.5 million people who tried to buy firearms have been turned away for failing the background check. i think there is strong evidence if we require a background check on every gun purchase, we will close a major loophole that allows criminals or the mentally ill to get their hands on gun easily. >> suarez: john lott, that is offer referred to as a gun show loophole where you dcroant to have your pas looed over. that's been talked abouty quite a lot over the past several
days, closing that just as part of the national response of what happened on friday. >> i have to disagree with what adam said. if you look at the brady act, which is obviously a part of this puzzle here in terms of background checks, when he cites the 1.9 million numbers, that's initial denialses. something like 90 eye don't remember the exact number-- 98% or so of those are false positive. what happens? you have a name similar to somebody else's name, and ey'll flagou, and you'll be initially denied gloo. >> suarez: you're saying a lot of those people come back and eventually do get guns? >> i'm saying criminals aren't trying to buy guns that way. pointing to the number of initial denials rather than final denials is not a very useful way of looking at it. and in addition with regard to the so-called gun show loophole, it's really a bit of a misnomer. what wants to be done is have
reg-- regulate and have background checks on all private trnsfe. so if u're a father giving a gun to a son or whatever, you would have to go through a background check system. the notion that they focus on gun shows, i mean, i could go outside the gun show and transfer the gun there. are they going to say that's okay, then? when states have passed these rules, usually it's going to be on all private transfers. and that's 5 if they want to make that argument. but the thing sagain, both criminologists and economists have looked at this extensively, and i don't know any study b either economits or criminologies that have found a benefit having the states that have these kinds of background of background checks. there's only about .7% of all crime guns come from gun shows or flea markets. >> suarez: professor winkler, let's give him a chance to respond. >> the truth is, we don't really
know. you don't have to report the sales at gun shows. and it deifies logic to say gun shows are not a vehicle for criminals to get their hands on guns. you're a crimil one of the big issues you fas san'to to a gun gunstore and buy a gun because they'll do a background check. if you want to have selection and the kinds of choices you get at a gun store ugo to a gun show. i agree with john, it's not a gun show loophole. gun sales at gun shows occur with the exact same rules as gun sales everywhere else. the problem is they are basically a marketplace for people who don't want to do a background check to purchase a firearm without having towrnd take one. it's time we require every single person who bs a guto go thugh baground check. that doesn't offend anyone's second amendment rights. all over the country when i went to talk about guns to people, i found gun owners all over contingent taelg me they wanted to do more to see criminals andd
mentally ill don't have access to guns. make it difficult for criminals to get their guns. >> there are costs and benefits for all these. during clinton administration, the computer checks were shut down for about six days or so each month. d th runntoroblemsow. so if you're running a gun show, and let's say it shut down for an hour or two hours or a day or a weekend, all your sales are gone. imagine running a grocery store where randomly the government would shut you down and not tell you when it would be pack up. thies real cost. if the government wants too guarantee it won't be or comp says sait people financially, my guess is the ability of opposition would be reduced. if they think there's a big gain in terms ofeduc cme despite the fact there are no academic studies, share part of the gain that would be imposed on those individuals who would have their businesses possibly
ruined otherwise. >> suarez: gentlemen, it's apparent there's a lot more to talk about on this issue. we will continue this conversation. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: you can watch the president's entire news conference on gun policy initiatives on our website. >> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": security failures in benghazi; a report from embattled damascus; joe lieberman on leaving the senate and remembering robert bork. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: president obama urged republicans today to peel off the partisan war paint and avoid the fiscal cliff at year's end. at his white house appearance, the president said he and house speaker john boehner are pretty close to an agreement. he said he's come at least halfway in a bid to avert mandatory spending cuts and across-the-board tax increases. he said republicans should take the deal. >> you know, they will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package that we will have
stabilized it for ten years. that is a significant achievement for them. they should be proud of it. but they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes. >> sreenivasan: the president's plan would raise taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year. white house officials said he'd veto what house republicans call "plan b". it would raise taxes on those making one million dollars a year, and keep tax cuts for everyone else. but speaker boehner said he's going ahead with the bill anyway. >> tomorrow the house will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every american. 99.81% of the american people. and then the president will have decision to make. he can call on the senate democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in american history. boehner and the president have been negotiating in private. but administration officials
said there's been no progress since monday. wall street had bn rising ts week ohopes for a deal in washington, but today's talk doused the optimism. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 99 points to close below 13,252. the nasdaq fell ten points to close at 3044. the federal trade commission moved today to stiffen online privacy rules for children. the new standards require parental consent before online companies may collect personal information from pre-teens. the f.t.c. said the rules will include new methods for verifying a parent's consent using snned forms, deo onfence and e-mail. the swiss bank u.b.s. has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay more than $1.5 billion in fines in the u.s., britain and switzerland. the u.s. justice department formally announced the deal today. the charges stem from the bank's attempt to manipulate a key interest rate known as libor. attorney general eric holder said two former u.b.s. traders
will face criminal charges. >> these alleged conspirators and others at u.b.s. manipulated the benchmark interest rate upon which many consumer financial products, including credit cards, student ans and mortgages, are frequently based. they defrauded the company's counterparties of millions of dollars. >> sreenivasan: the two traders are currently in britain and switzerland. justice department officials said they will seek extradition for both. the u.s. army will pursue the death penalty for a soldier accused of killing 16 afghan villagers last march. the announcement came today in the case of staff sergeant robert bales. he was in his fourth deployment to a war zone when he allegedly attacked a pair of afghan villages. bales' faces a court martial at joint base lewis-mcchord near seattle. no member of the u.s. military has been executed since 1961. the united nations suspended its polio vaccination campaign in pakistan today, after two more workers were killed. six other volunteers were shot dead earlier in the week.
suspicion fell on the taliban. the militant group accuses the health workers of acting as u.s. spies, and it claims the vaccine makes children sterile. senior officials at the b.b.c. were absolved today of covering up claims of sex crimes committed by long-time star jimmy savile. he di last ar, anthe b.b.c. later shelved an expose' that he abused and raped scores of underage girls for decades. the scandal erupted anyway, and the public broadcaster was widely criticized. today, an independent review blamed incompetence, but not bad faith. >> when the full force of the affair broke in october this year, the bbc's management system proved completely incapable of dealing with it. the level of chaos and confusion was even greater than was apparent at the time. several individuals and departments were making considerable efforts to get to the tru behind thsavile story but leadership and organization seemed to be in short supply. >> sreenivasan: a criminal investigation continues in the
savile scandal. so far, eight suspects have been arrested. south korea has elected its first female president: park geun-hye the conservative ruling party candidate beat her liberal challenger in a tight race. and late today, supporters braved freezing temperatures to celebrate the historic victory outside party headquarters in seoul. their candidate will take office in february. park's father was the late park chung-h, who led dictato fo 18 years unl heasilled by his intelligence chief in 1979. >> sreenivasan: those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: three state department officials quit today after a new report stated that security measures at a diplomatic facility in libya were quote "grossly inadequate." jeffrey brown has more. >> brown: the highly critical report came three months after the deadly september 11th attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi, libya, that left ambassador chris stevens and three other americans dead.
former ambassador thomas pickering and admiral mike mullen, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff chaired the outside accountability review board. they spoke at the state department. >> frankly, the state department had not given benghazi the security, both physical and personnel resources, it needed. >> certain state department bureau level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management >> brownoverall, the report found that systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies resulted in a security posture that was inadequate for benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place. earlier, mullen and pickering briefed members of key house and senate committees in private. lawmakers on both sides endorsed the findings. >> there was a breakdown in benghazi on september 11 that is stark and challenging to all of us in public life. >> clearly, there were very poor judgments being made within the
state department. there was a failure of leadership. >> brown: in a letter that accompanied the full report, secretary of state hillary clinton called it "a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic challenges that we have already begun to fix." she said she accepted all of the recommendations. the report did not single out specific individuals, but three state department security officials resigned today. and last week, u.n. ambassador susan rice removed her name for consideration to become secretary of state. she'd been heavily criticized by republicans for not immediately calling the incident aerrorist atck. there will be more tomorrow, as deputy secretaries of state william burns and thomas nides testify at house and senate hearings. >> brown: for more i'm joined by two congressmen who were briefed by ambassador pickering and admiral mullen today: republican congressman ed royce of california, soon to take over as chair of the house committee on foreign affairs.
and democratic comgressman eliot engel of new york, who will become that committee's ranking member in the next term. congressman royce, let me start with you. what's the key thing we learned from this report? where do you see the main failure? >> well, i think the main failure when you read the report is in management at senior levels because when you had on the ground was not only an ambassador but other personnel warning that al qaeda camps were growing, explaining that they felt that they were at risk personally, asking for support-- which was not forth come ago and coming to the conclusion that washington was not concerned about their security needs. so all of that comes out in the memos. and i think what has to be addressed is why not only was the preparation not there, but somebody forgot to circle the calendar on 9/11. there was no attempt or no effective way, i guess, desploid
should this happen that we could come in with a quick-reaction team and assist them if they come under attack. eight-hour firefight, no assistance through that period. >> eliot engel, do you read it any differently? "systemic failure" s the term. what in the end or who in the end was to blame? >> i think what's important is not who is to blame but that something like what happened benghazi never, ever happens again. we have to learn from the mistakes. there were many mistakes that were made. the important thing for me is not to play "gotcha" politics but to say what went wrong and how can we 56 it in the future. i agree with everything my colleague said. i think the system broke down. i think there was a lack of coordination between the people responsible for diplomatic security and with the spialists in the middle est. there has to be-- that was one of the recommendations of the report. there has to be much, much more coordination.
it's really outrageous that they were relying on local militias to protect the compound. we don't need local militias. we need our own troops and our own protections there. we want american protections and i think that has to change in the future and it will. but i think congress has a responsibility, too. we have to appropriate the monies to implement these changes. we've been cutti back and cut and cutting back on diplomatic security and there are some proposals floating around congress to cut back more. we need to spend more people to protect our people far away from home. >> let me ask congressman royce about that. the report said, "the solution requires a more serious and sustained commitment from congress to support state department needs." it suggested that budget constraints were behind some of these decisions. an emphasis on savings over security. so is congress to blame as well? >> well, eliot engel and i work
together to make certain that we have the resources there. i think it is important to note that on the particular account that addresses personnel for embassy security, those agents that we deployed, congress actually increased the number of agents, the funding for those agents, over the administration request, over prior years. regardlessef whether it was republican or democrat. we increased that number. what was decreased at one point was a program, computer progr account, but in terms of the type of personnel we're talking about, which is the time that would be deployed in a situation to protect the embassy, that was actually increased. and i think going forward we have to make sure the security needs are met. but during the hearing that we had last month in testimony, senior state department personnel said that that was not the problem. in this particular case, it was the decisions, the wrong
decisions being made in management that caused the oblem. >> eliot enge you sayarlier you don't want to talk about who's to blame, and yet today we had three officials resign. the report doesn't cite individuals, but where do things go? a lot of attention has been-- for example-- on hillary clinton. are you satisfied with things as they are now? >> i think that what hillary clinton has said is she is going beyond what the report recommended. she said she accepts full responsibility. you know, thepeople who are supped tbe carrying out these things, you expect them on a lower level, on the deputy secretary level, to carry them out in a responsible way. that's their job, to protect our diplomats. you assume they're doing it. if they're not, they should resign. if that is the case i'm glad these people resigned. but we in congress have our responsibilities, too pup know,
in this budget crunch it's very easy for us to cut back on foreign aid or diplomat security or trying to do thing on the cheap. we have men and women all over the world, in harm's way, doing e best jobs possible, maybe on a shoe string. and i think congress needs to take a little more responsibility and really put its money where its mouth is. i was very pleased with secretary clinton's statements because she accepted all the findings, every one of them and said things have to change. >> and agree with her. >> brown: ed royce, are you satisfied no other official should face further sanction or punishment? >> i don't think we know the answer to that yet. of course, secretary clinton will be some o testifying next n juary on this issue but one of the interesting aspects of this that has not been answered, is the narrative, the explanation given to the american people dispp that explanation of course at the time and for two weeks was that this was in response to a video. we know from the report that
there was no evidence whatsoever that this was anybody except what the report says it was-- a terrorist attack and, indeed, those encampments were not that far from our facility. al qaeda camps. and so, the real ye wa questions why maintain that position for two weeks in face of the evidence that it was clearly what those at the consulate thought it was-- an attack on the consulate by this terrorist organization that it previously carried out attacks in that area. >> brown: eliot engel, just a brief last word here. it sounds as though the political football-- that was your term-- may still be flying. >> well, president obama on the day after it happened, used the word "terrorist attack" and i think what's important is,
again, not whether it was a terrorist attack or not. there seemed to vaib lot of confusion at the beginning. it was obviously now a terrorist attack. what's important is a terrible tragedy happened. four americans, including our ambassador, were killed, and, you know, some people during the campaign for president tried to use it for political purposes. i mean, i think that in a time of national tragedy, we need to embrace each other and sort of rally around each other and kind of stick together, and speak with one voice. so i'm not concerned about whether it's called a terrorist attack or not. clearly, it was. i'm concerned that the people who are currently in harm's way are protected so what happened in benghazi will never happen anywhere again in the future. >> brown: eliot engel, ed royce, thank you very much. >> woodruff: go online for a firsthand account from a libyan journalist who happened to be near the scene of the benghazi attack on september 11. we also have a link to the full state depament revie
>> ifill: syrian government troops have launched a major offensive to root out rebel fighters in the suburbs of damascus. but many schoolchildren inside the capital are trying to go about their normal daily lives, amid the bullets and the bombs. we have a report from alex thomson of "independent television news." >> reporter: "yes," they yell, we're ready for lessons and in they come. two shifts across the day. under the ever-watchful eye of president assad, reading lessons for children in a city, a country at war with itself. what kind of things are these little girls seeing beyond the school gates?
>> ( translated ): we as educators don't support one side or the other. our concern is for the child to learn. so we keep the school open and help with their fears. we can't do as much as before, but the key thing is to try and deal with their anxiety. joarpt up down, left, right, 2, 3, 4-- out in the playground it's a p . e. lesson, exercises including run to the wall and back. here, the running is for fun, but beyond the school walls, a smell or mortar can la anywhere, any time. running can be a matter of life and death. for obvious reasons, the killing of small children and teachers in and around school buildings is pretty near the top of the news agenda at the moment, so it is in this educational district and the one next door alone, in the past two weeks, 35 children
and two teachers have been killed. the security building next to the school was car bombed recently, leaving a staff candid about the problems they face here. >> ( translated ): lot of children had to leave their areas, friends, teachers, and move, which is very difficult. all the, we get students pushed out from places so the school is new to them. we do our best to help but it is beyond us. it is way too big. >> reporter: and then one of the students wanted to sing us a patriotic song, but she was soon overwhelmed by the general chant, "god, syria, bashar al-assad." asked tow draw a picture, this little artist came up with tanks and guns in the colors of the government flag. this is one of several shelters across damascus for people
displaced by the fighting. >> ( translated ): the reason we're doing this is because we've seen what happens to syrians who have to leave the country for refugee camps. they're treated very badly. we don't want that to happen again. >> reporter: they may wear anoraks, but they claim anywhere here is welcome, whatever their political affiliation. perhaps, predictably, we couldn't find anyone here who said they support 9 rebels. one said, "any opportunity to go home would be lethal." >> ( translated ): they threaten me. if i go back, because i did not go to partly to mostly there, because i support the president. >> reporter: in a place where assad's senior and junior stare down, as falies eat, one man still wouldn't speak openly, even in denouncing the rebels in a place like that.
>> ( translated ): sometimes i have to go home to pick up stuff. the rebels are not in the house, but they have surrounded the area. if they see me criticizing them, they will liquidate me. >> reporter: and yet, just a mile or two away, damascus old city, mosques. inside a failed restaurant, sunnis dine alongside a christening party and i awe nun. the world of hair stratters in blendz with the world of hijabs. it is a city and country where religion and politics are tearing things apart. >> woodruff: now, we return to issues here at home and to our interview with retiring senator joe lieberman, an independent who was the democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004.
it's the first of several conversations we'll have in the coming weeks with members of congress who are leaving washington. i sat down with lieberman in his hideaway office in the capitol this morning to talk about the tragedy in his state and more. senator joseph lieberman, thank you for talking with us. >> judy, good to be with you. thank you. >> woodruff: at the very moment you are set to retire from the senate, your state of connecticut is the site of one of the worst mass shootings in american history, the worst in termsof the age of the victi. >> right. >> woodruff: one of the residents of newtown said on the ""newshour"" last night, she said the politicians have failed to protect our children. is she right giwould say there is reason for people to be angry, skeptical, and cynical about the willingness or capacity of congress to act to stop mass violence in our country, particularly the part of it that is scawzed by gun--
is caused by guns. look, even after there was the attempted assassinaon on prident reag and his press secretary, jim brady, was hit, it was seven years until the brady act was adopted, and that and the assault ban that was adopted around that same time-- 1993-94, are the last real gun control measures adopted, after every previous act of mass violence, shooting, columbine right through the mall in oregon last week, really, nothing has been done. and i don't blame people for being angry, and i hope-- and i believe i see the ging of a different reaction here in washington displood you've called fair national commission. the president today is organizing, announcing a task force. is that what you have in mind? and narkts as you say, again, the residents of newtown on our
program last night were saying it's-- you know, every time there's been a shooting in the past, they said something was going to be done. >> right gloodz it wasn't done. >> yeah. >> woodruff:heyaid wa soething done now. >> i don't blame them. look, my feeling is the president by executive action, congress as soon as it can, should do whatever it can do quickly to make it less likely that something like the shootings in newtown will happen again. obviously, i'm talking now about additional gun control laws. i would vote today to restore the assault weapon bans. these are military weapons. there's no need for them for target and hunting. if you buy a gun from a feder guns dealer uhave to go through a background check. if you buy it at a gun show, you don't. that's ridiculous. reason i'm proposing a commission is there are other elements of this that will take more time and be part of a
national conversation. for instance, what do you do with a troubled person before they become a killer? what about the impact of violence in the entertainment culture. what should our schools and mental health system be doing to try to find potential murderers before they become murderers. those are serious questions you can't solve overnight. in terms of gun control, that should be done as soon as possible. >> woodruff: let me ask you about another dilemma facing the hill right now, the fiscal cliff. do you believe it will be resolved before january 1 and next year there will be a longer term solution to spendin spendid taxes. >> i think what's possible before the end of the year is that we have a substantial down payment on debt reduction, and i'm saying something over a trlion dollars with a combination of spending reductions, including some reforms to entitlements, and tax
increases, particularly on wealthier meshes. that would be a significant accomplishment. but frankly, judy, there are groups in both parties that are pulling at the president and the speaker to keep them from making an agreement. and i hope they'll both have the leadership and the courage to make sure that doesn't happen. >> woodruff: speaking of the pulling in both directions, a lot of people today look at this capitol, this congress, and they say it's disfunkal. do you believe dysfunction is just a permanent feature of congress, or do you think somebody can be done about it? >> no, i think somebody can be done. i also do want to say, though, i have to say, first, of my 24 years here, lavment tw the laste been the least productive because they have been the most uncompromising and most partisan. along the way in the 22 previous years, we got a lot of things done. it wasn't a straight line.
sometimes you'd have times of worses. ship, sometimes less. but i have been parts of major steps forward on environmental protection, national security, civil rights, human rights, education reform. and every one of those things was bipartisan, particularly in the senate. you can't get anything done on a partisan basis in the senate because you need 60 votes to break a filibuster. it can and must get better but right new it's at the bottom. it'st the pit really,nd i don't blame people in the country of being angry. >> woodruff: you were asked by the "new york times" to name the three senators you felt closest to in the senate it was three republicans that you named. >> yeah. >> woodruff: i was to ask you, there's a lot of conversation right now about what does the republican party need to do after the terrible losses it suffered in the polls this year? >> right. >> woodruff: do you have a thought about that? >> well, they need to come back to where the public is.
frankly, they lost touch with that large plurality in the middle of independents. to mene of theost fascinating numbers are the exit polls was that among self-described moderates, president obama got 15% more votes than governor romney. so a lot of people in this country think president obama is center lowest or even far left. but for self-described moderateit became a choice between obama the democrat, and rom neat republican. and 15% more of them thought that romney the republicans too far over-- i'day to the righ si." so i think the republicans have to come back to where the people are, and they can do it with-- they're particularly out of touch on what i'd call social issues. you might say libertarian issues, personal laboratories. and also on matters like immigration. >> woodruff: a word of advice for president obama for the next
four years? >> well, i think president obama should feel very good about the election, and really should work hard-- as i think he's doing now with john boehner-- work i persistently and not let himself get discouraged with the republicans seem to be pushing him off for partisan reasonses because there is so much he can do but he will not do it unless he engages some critical mass of republicans. and of course they've got to be willing to set aside rigid partisanship and ideological purity and come to the middle and compromise with the president to deal with big problems like the debt, like the economy, like cyber-security, like chiement chronicle are of, for instance so i hopehat will happe the president, most of all, has the mandate to be a leader. i'll tell you, i think he's off to a good start of leadership since the election. and i felt it the other night in newtown. he brought not only comfort to
newtown, connecticut. he brought resolve that we're not going to tolerate these kinds of tragedies anymore displood senator joseph lieberman, leaving the senate after 24 years. >> yes, ma'am. >> woodruff: thank you. >> ifill: lieberman weighed in on two of his senate colleagues who may be tapped for the president's cabinet, endorsing one but not the other. watch the full interview on our website. >> woodruff: finally tonight, an obituary. we take a look at the man whose nomination to the supreme court in the 1980s dramatically changed that process. >> reporter: as a nationally known jurist and legal thinker, robert bork was a mainstay of conservative jurisprudence for more than half a century. >> it is not a cliche to make a distinction between interpreting a document as law and making up new principles that are not in the constitution.
>> reporter: those views fueled a titanic struggle over his 1987 nomination to the u.s. supreme court-- a fight that became a seminal moment in altering the process for all future nominees. bork had first gained notoriety years earlier as president nixon's solicitor general. on nixon's orders, he carried out the so-called "saturday night massacre" in october 1973, firing watergate special prosecutor archibald cox who'd sought access to the white house tapes. >> the president said, "it is my expectation the department of justice will continue with full vigor the investigations and prosecutions." >> reporter: robert h. bork was born in 1927, and graduated from the university of chicago law school. his economic libertarianism morphed into law-and-order conservatism during the upheaval of the 1960s. in 1982, president reagan named
him to the u.s. court of appeals for the district of columbia. there, he applied his conviction that the founders' original intent in the constitution did not include a right to privacy, abortion rights and some civil rights protections. and then, came the fight of his life. >> i today announce my intention to nominate. >> reporter: bork's supreme court confirmation hearings unfolded in september 1987 and heralded a historic struggle over the ideological composition of the federal courts. >> the judge's responsibility is to discern how the framers' values, defined in the context of the world they knew, applies to the world we know. >> in robert bork's america, there is no room at the inn for blacks, and no place in the constitution for women, and in our america there should be no seat on the supreme court for robert bork. >> it is hard to understand why
your nomination would generate controversy. the answer is found in one word, which is tragic in this judicial context, and that word is politics. >>eporter: but bork refused to withdraw, and the senate rejected his nomination 58-42, with six republicans joining all but two democrats in opposition. along the way, his very name was turned into an active verb: "to bork", which meant rejection based on political grounds and it became a conservative rallying cry. afterward, the judge resigned his appeals court seat, and wrote books on what he saw as the moral decline of america-- a subject he described on "the newshour" in 1996 with david gergen. >> when you titled your book slouching towards gomorrah, you were intentionally drawing upon the poem of william butler yeats' "second coming," those final lines, "what rough beast its hour come round at last slouches toward bethlehem to be born." >> mm-hmm. >> why do you think we're heading toward gomorrah and not
bethlehem? >> well, if present lines continue, if our culture continues to decline and becomes increasingly vulgar, chaotic, and dangerous, it sounds more like gomorrah than it does bethlehem. yeats' poem was about a culture unraveling. >> right. right. but yours is bleaker, in effect, than even yeats. >> well, maybe neck-and-neck. >> reporter: robert bork died this morning in arlington, virginia. he was 85 years old. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day: president obama vowed the effort to stop gun violence would be a central issue of his second term. he tapped vice president biden and an independent review blamed failures of management and grossly inadequate security fo the fatal attack on the u.s. nsulate in benghi, ibya andnline, where do chimpanzees head when they retire? hari sreenivasan has the details. >> sreenivasan: the national institutes of health announced plans to move more than 100 chimpanzees from a research
center to a 200-acre sanctuary in louisiana, in a move to end testing on the primates for good. that's in our science roundup. all that and more is on our website newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. >> majorunding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
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